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Swedish actor teaches theory and practice

November 23, 2010
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Gallaudet was fortunate to have Lars Otterstedt, a deaf actor from Sweden well known on both stage and screen, spend time on campus from November 3 to 12. Otterstedt played a number of roles during his visit, including presenting an award during the WORLDEAF Cinema Festival Awards Ceremony and teaching workshops to theatre arts majors, non-majors, and the cast of Noises Off, the Theatre Arts Department’s fall production.

Otterstedt contacted Theatre Arts Department Chair Willy Conley several months before to inquire about the possibility of teaching workshops to interested Gallaudet theatre arts students, if he were to receive a small grant from the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts where he teaches.  Conley welcomed his idea, including the possibility of discussing future exchanges between Gallaudet and Stockholm.

Otterstedt received the grant, and came to campus with his workshop, “Seeking the Truth in Acting.”  He introduced students to two major approaches in acting–the Stanislavsky method of pursuing the inward truth in a character’s objective, and the Brechtian method of portraying the truth outwardly with didactic purpose. 

Using International Sign Language, Otterstedt explained the finer points of acting to students in “Introduction to Theatre,” taught by assistant professor Cheryl Lundquist. Lundquist, who is married to a Swede, helped to interpret student comments and questions into Swedish Sign Language. 

The activities were not all theoretical, however. In his workshop with theatre majors and the cast of Noises Off, Otterstedt taught a meditation technique for relaxation.

Otterstedt has worked with deaf theatre companies and noted deaf actors for many years. He has been involved with Sweden’s Riksteatern/Tyst Teater as an actor and director, as well as with deaf theatre companies in Uganda and Norway.  His numerous film credits include Stille Liebe (Secret Love) with French actor Emmanuelle Laborit.  However, this was his first time teaching at the University.

Students said they enjoyed having a deaf theatre teacher from another country; the experience added another layer to their theatre education.  It was likewise for Otterstedt. He felt that it was an enriching experience to teach Gallaudet students, something he has always wanted to do. 

Some of the ideas Conley and the visiting actor discussed were to bring back Otterstedt to direct a small student production and for Conley to travel to Stockholm to teach playwriting. They also talked about using technology to make the international connection, possibly by having one party perform a short, dramatic piece of work that the other could view in real time via videoconferencing.  

Thanks to Willy Conley for his contributions to this article.

23 November 2010

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